S parta. A group of teenage girls are carrying a plough through the night, like a team of oxen. Teenage girls, invol-ved in some kind of ritual, processing towards a mountain ridge.
No myth about Sparta is as persistent and controversial as the claim that pederasty and homosexuality dominated Spartan society. Even highly reputable historians such as Paul Cartledge subscribe to this theory. However, the evidence against it is, in my opinion, compelling. Xenophon, the only historian with firsthand experience of the agoge his sons attended it! To dismiss this evidence simply because it does not suit preconceived ideas is arrogant.
Homosexuality in the militaries of ancient Greece was regarded as contributing to morale. Some Greek philosophers wrote on the subject of homosexuality in the military.
In Plato 's Symposiumthe interlocutor Phaedrus commented on the power of male sexual relationships to improve bravery in the military: . However, the Symposium is a dialectical exploration of the nature of true love, in which Phaedrus' views are soon found to be inadequate compared to the transcendent vision of Socrates, who:.
He preaches no avoidance of the contest with appetite, but rather the achievement of a definite victory over the lower elements of love-passion, and the pursuit of beauty on higher and higher levels until, as in a sudden flash, its ultimate and rewarding essence is revealed. Xenophonwhile not criticizing the relationships themselves, ridiculed militaries that made them the sole basis of unit formation:.
The Spartans According to tradition, the Greeks structured military units along tribal linesa practice attributed to Nestor in the Homeric epics. The Theban military commander Pammeneshowever, is supposed to have advocated military organization based on pairs of lovers: . Homer 's Nestor was not well skilled in ordering an army when he advised the Greeks to rank tribe and tribe For men of the same tribe little value one another when dangers press; but a band cemented by friendship grounded upon love is never to be broken. One such example took place during the Lelantine War between the Sparta sex and the Chalcidians.
In a decisive battle the Chalcidians called for the aid of a warrior named Cleomachus.
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Cleomachus answered their request and brought his lover along with him. He charged against the Eretrians and brought the Chalcidians to victory at the cost of his own life.
It was said he was inspired with love during the battle. Afterwards the Chalcidianserected a tomb for him in their marketplace and reversed their negative view of homosexuality and began to honor it. Ye l of grace and sprung from worthy stock Grudge not to brave men converse with your beauty In cities of Chalcis, Love, looser of limbs Thrives side by side with courage.
The importance of these relationships in military formation was not without controversy. According to Xenophonthe Spartans abhorred the thought of using the relationships as the basis of unit formation for placing too much ificance on sexuality rather than talent. This was due to their founder Lycurgus who attacked lusts on physical beauty regarding it as shameful.
A brief history of sex and sexuality in ancient greece
Xenophon asserted that in some city-states the lovers would not even have conversations with one another. He said this type of behavior was horrible because it was entirely based on physical attractions: . If as was evident it was not an attachment to the soul, but a yearning solely towards the body, Lycurgus stamped this thing as foul. Nonetheless city states that employed the practice in determining military formation enjoyed some success.
The Thebans had one such regiment as the core of their entire army. They attributed this group called the Sacred Band of Thebes for making Thebes the most powerful city-state for a generation until its fall to Philip II of Macedon. Philip II of Macedon was so impressed with their bravery during the battle he erected a monument that still stands today on their gravesite. He also gave a harsh criticism of the Spartan views of the band: .
One of the prominent Greek military figures enjoying such a relationship was Epaminondasconsidered the greatest warrior-statesmen of ancient Thebes by many, including the Roman historian Diodorus Siculus. He had two male lovers: Asopichus and Caphisodorusthe latter died with him at Mantineia in battle. They were buried together, something usually reserved for a husband and wife in Greek society.
Spartan women of yore
Another pair of warrior-lovers— Harmodius and Aristogeiton —credited with the downfall of tyranny in Athens and the rise of democracy became the emblem of the city. This article relies too much on references to primary sources. Please improve this by adding secondary or tertiary sources. June Learn how and when to remove this template message. Babbit, Plutarch: Moraliavol.
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